The Black Regiment – The Bane of the British – The Soul of the American Republic

Posted: May 10, 2013 in Category - Cultural War, The Soul of The American Republic

The Black Regiment – The Bane of the British – The Soul of the American Republic
By Randy Pope, Akron Religion & Politics Examiner

Probably the most disturbing scene from the movie Patriot, starring Mel Gibson, is the scene where Colonel William Tavington, whose character is based on Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, herds the inhabitants of a whole town into the church and burns it to the ground. If you attended the government schools you would tend to attribute this scene to the degeneration of Hollywood to sensationalism and blood thirst. The truth of the matter is, that due to the British hatred of the American clergy, this scene is based on more truth than fiction. From the perspective of the British this hatred was well founded. In his article The Forgotten Holiday, Tom Barrett states, “I do not consider it a stretch at all to say that were it not for the pastors and churches of colonial America, our land would be a British colony today.”

It was the “Black Regiment,” as it was derogatorily called by Tory Peter Oliver, that provided the laity with the moral authority and the theological acumen to resist the tyranny of parliament and the king. The enemy understood the power inherent in the “Black Regiment.” The royalist governor of Massachusetts sounded the warning, as early as 1760, that the movement for independence could not be stopped if the colonial ministers would begin to label the crown’s activities as tyrannical. In reply to the judge, one of the soldiers on trial for his part in the “Boston Massacre” prayed death on the colonial clergy. Prime Minister Horace Walpole said, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson.” Finally, British troops purposely targeted churches, and used Christian churches and colleges as barracks and horse stables when occupying colonial towns.

The clergy of the American Colonies preached freedom from tyranny. The Rev. Samuel West preached that it is just as evil to avoid opposing tyranny as it is to disobey righteous leaders. Citing Romans chapter 13, Rev. West pointed out that civil magistrates are “ministers of God” and therefore draw their authority from God’s law. He resounded that when the civil magistrate subverts the authority given by God it is the duty of lesser magistrates to resist them.

The influence of the preaching of the “Black Regiment” was a decisive factor in the outcome of the American War for Independence, but, neither did the “Black Regiment” shrink from battle. It was the Rev. Jonas Clark who called his congregation together on Lexington Green on that “April Morning”. The Rev. James Caldwell is well known for his cry of, “Now boys, give ’em Watts!”, after bringing the Watts Hymnals from his church to the battlefield to be used as the paper wadding in the men’s muskets. Then there is the Lutheran minister John Muhlenberg, who became a general in Washington’s army, after he raised a regiment by preaching a sermon on Ecc. 3:1-8, declaring that, “…there is a time to fight, and that time has come now.” At the end of his sermon he shed his robe, revealing the uniform of a Virginia Colonel.

The “Black Regiment” did their job so well that most of the American army was made up of Christians from the congregations of the “Black Regiment”. In fact, at the time of the surrender at Yorktown, all but one colonel in the Colonial Army were Presbyterian elders. The British hatred toward the American church was not ill placed if you consider from their perspective. Because the “Black Regiment” understood the Biblical roles of church and state, and the proper Biblical response of the church toward the state, the American republic was born. Understanding the providential view of history, the Christian seed of the American republic goes back to antiquity, but you can see that seed germinating in the “Black Regiment” in the War for Independence.
Religion & Spirituality | January 9, 2012
Randy Pope
Akron Religion & Politics Examiner


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